Keys to Literacy Newsletter
Winter 2014
Volume 10

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Our newsletter provides guidance and resources about literacy instruction in grades K-12.  We hope you find the tips helpful ... and feel free to forward to your friends and colleagues! 


In this issue, we will focus on argument writing in the Common Core State Standards. 


Suggested resources and tips are provided.

Argument Writing in Common Core State Standards
Writing image

The first writing standard is devoted to argument writing (labeled as opinion writing for grades K-5).


Lucy Calkins (2012) notes, "Argument writing is a big deal in the CCSS. If you had a hunch that this was so from its place as number one on the list of writing types... you were on to something."  


These are the specific Common Core anchor standards for argument writing as shown in Standard #1: write opinion/argument pieces:

  • Standard #1a: write introductions and create an organizational structure for argument pieces
  • Standard #1b: support and develop claims
  • Standard #1c: use lining words and phrases (transitions)
  • Standard #1d: establish and maintain a formal style
  • Standard #1e: provide concluding statement or section

So what is opinion/argument writing? Argument writing is used for many purposes: it can change someone's point of view, incite action, or ask someone to accept a writer's explanation or evaluation of a concept, issue or problem. In the past, many educators called this persuasive writing, but in Appendix A of the CCSS, a clear distinction is made between persuasive and argument writing. 


While both aim to convince the reader, persuasive writing takes a personal position about something, attempts to persuade the reader to agree with this perspective, and typically appeals to the audience's emotions or self interests.  Argument writing, on the other hand, aims to convince through a valid argument using a more formal style. It states a claim and supports it with reasons and evidence. Argument writing is the type of writing that the CCSS emphasizes as a critical life skill - one that develops skills in inference, critical judgment, logical thinking, reasoning, sorting through evidence, weighing and judging, studying patterns across data and tracking the development of ideas. Argument writing requires comprehension skills as much as writing skills.  


Appendix A of the CCSS states, "While all three text types are important, the Standards put particular emphasis on students' ability to write sound arguments on substantive topics and issues, as this ability is critical to college and career readiness."  The argument writing standards begin with the expectation that students in grades K-1 will be able to introduce a topic and state an opinion. The standards progress steeply to grade 12, where it is expected that argument writing also includes a counterclaim stating an opposing view, as well as a rebuttal refuting the counterclaim. This type of writing requires critical thinking necessary for success after high school.

Tips for Teaching
Child Climbing books
      • Explicitly teach the format of argument writing by having students write about simple everyday topics. Once they develop argument writing skills they can then tackle writing arguments about complex, subject-area topics.
      • Provide many opportunities for students to listen to and read many mentor argument text samples. Students improve their writing skills by emulating examples of good writing.
  • To introduce the structure of argument writing, begin by analyzing the components of a sample piece. When students unpack a sample, they learn how to include and connect argument components when they write. 
  • Follow this scope and sequence for teaching argument writing as you gradually release responsibility to the students:
    1. Identify, define and explain argument writing and text structures
    2. Analyze and deconstruct writing samples 
    3. Complete skill-building activities
    4. Modify and revise writing samples
    5. Write a piece collaboratively
    6. Write a piece independently
  • Argument writing should be incorporated across the curriculum routinely so students have many opportunities to practice skills and strategies. Through explicit instruction, practice, feedback and revisions, students will be able to advance their writing skills.
Recommended Resources for
Writing Arguments

Here are some recommended books, reports, and websites about teaching argument writing:



Visit our website to download these materials:

Keys to Literacy Professional Development

To learn more about our writing professional development, we invite you to register for one of our open sessions:

  • Keys to Content Writing, February 6-7 - Rowley, MA

Two-day professional development workshop focusing on teaching fourth- through twelfth-grade students on how to write in all subject areas. Participants learn best practices to address the writing requirements of Common Core Standards.

  • Keys to Argument Writing, February 27 - Rowley and Springfield, MA

One-day training workshop focusing on how to teach students to write argument/opinion pieces in all content areas.


For more information and to register:


 A message from

Keys to Literacy

Joan LETRS training
Joan Sedita
Happy New Year from Keys to Literacy!  


We are very excited about our latest professional development offering - a new writing program that aligns with the Common Core Writing Standards.  After a year in development with author Joan Sedita and two fantastic trainers, Shauna Cotte and Lisa Klein, our writing program is complete. We are pleased to report that it has received rave reviews from multiple districts. 


Two formats are offered: a two-day session, Keys to Content Writing, focuses on writing foundations with an emphasis on informational writing and a one-day session, Keys to Argument Writing. 


The program is designed for teachers in grades 4 -12.


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